Singapore to develop formerly disputed island to boost security


SINGAPORE • Singapore will start development works on an island that was once the subject of a territorial dispute with Malaysia in a bid to enhance maritime safety and security.

Pedra Branca island (Pulau Batu Putih), which sits near the opening of the Straits of Singapore — one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, will also get its search and rescue capabilities improved, the government said.

“Singapore had considered undertaking these development works as far back as the 1970s,” the Ministry of National Development said in a statement.

“However, they were postponed in view of the legal dispute between Singapore and Malaysia regarding the sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.”

The rocky outcrop, some 24 nautical miles to the east of Singapore, currently has a lighthouse, facilities for vessel traffic information, a helipad, one desalination plant, as well as a communications tower and military rebroadcast station.

The new development works will improve the infrastructure, provide berthing for vessels on Pedra Branca and add logistics, administrative and communications facilities, the ministry said.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded Pedra Branca to Singapore in 2008, long after a row that started between the city-state and Malaysia in 1979.

The Netherlands-based court ruled that the nearby Middle Rocks belonged to Malaysia, which intended to turn the rocky mass into an island.

Malaysia sought a review of the ICJ’s ruling in favour of Singapore on Pedra Branca in 2017, which Singapore opposed. Malaysia later withdrew that request.